There is a whole lot of difference between doing strategy for an established MNC or a local Brand/Organisation Vs A start-up.
In the past 4 years Wolfzhowl has helped a lot of start-ups with their strategic requirements. Here are a few things we learnt along the way in helping them:
(1) Start with Strat for the owners/management team: Work on the team first and not on the brand or the marketing task. Help them break down their vision and business goals into consumer goals and help them plot it out into a marketing calendar. Understand their personal desires and help turn them into the fuel which further drives the tasks at hand.
(2) Decode their culture and help them understand it themselves. Make them detail out the USP’s of their product and service and help them understand why a product centric view is just the start and it is hollow with out a consumer centric view of the same. This is possibly the toughest thing to do, but spend a lot of time doing that right at the beginning and spend patient – quality time doing this. It is not about you telling them, it is about them accepting it and not just understanding it. Sometimes you have to it 5 times over – be patient.
(3) Simplify purpose creation, positioning, brand building to the business level and demonstrate to them the value of building a brand. A magnanimous dose of common sense and divorcing jargon really helps.
(4) Embrace their realities, but hold steadfast on whats right for them.
(5) Look beyond your fee, let their success be your only goal. (Believe me it is easier said than done, but this is the only way).
(6) Have a heart large enough for the two of you. A start-up has a lot of ups and downs. Funding suddenly stopping, product manufacturing delays, sudden competition etc; – you need to be a source of emotional strength during these phases too.
(7) Optimize their money as if its your own. Make sure every penny being spent is for the right thing and bargain for them – with yourself and other partners too – on their behalf (but teach them how under-cutting a partner will under-cut the work too. Surprisingly a lot of start-ups know and agree with this).
(8) Brand strategy does not start and end with brand essence, campaign thought and go to market plan alone. The most important part you need to help a start-up is to actually craft their internal culture first and bring in consumer centricity.
(9) Partner in every problem of theirs, but take execution responsibility only for those you can do. Also most importantly help them get organised in work management, work allocation, realistic expectations from partners etc; Help them put a method that accommodates the madness.
(10) Most Importantly: “Tough Love” be tough on them, yell at them, argue with them and scold them for the right thing. As long as your intent is understood by them…they understand why the tough love. Be tough on showcasing them reality, the pitfalls, the fallacies of over estimating the opportunity, product or their own capability. But never kill their spirit & faith – for that is the real fuel with which a start-up runs.
In Summary, being a strategic partner for a start-up is not only about smart work or hard work…it has a lot to do with “Heart Work”.
It is very challenging and gratifying!